San Francisco reverses plan to rename schools honoring historical leaders

San Francisco’s school board late Tuesday night overturned its controversial plan to rename dozens of schools with names its members claimed honor “racist” historical leaders.

The city’s board of education voted unanimously to repeal its move to strip 44 schools of names of historic figures, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The board intends to revisit the renaming in the fall when students return to full-time in-person learning.

During Tuesday’s meeting, parents and previous educators ripped the board for its original decision — which sparked a huge backlash, along with legal challenges for the decision being made without community input.

“The repeal of this amendment to change the name of 44 schools gives me hope that you realize San Francisco voters are your boss,” said Marcia, a former principal of a San Francisco elementary school.

“We elected you to lead our school district, not dismantle it. Leave the decision for a name change, or not, up to each school,” the former principal said.

A parent in the district admitted the renaming of schools is an “important issue,” but blasted the school board’s initial process as an “embarrassment.”

“I was incredibly disappointed by how poorly it was handled,” the woman said.

“The board did not really take any reasonable efforts to have community input into this. To let schools decide what they wanted to do.”

The city’s board of education voted unanimously to repeal its move to strip 44 schools of names of historic figures, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The city’s board of education voted unanimously to repeal its move to strip 44 schools of names of historic figures, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Louis Stevenson.
AP

Another parent added: “When considering renaming schools, keep in mind that context matters. You can’t completely cancel history.”

Mistakes in the renaming plan included wrongly accusing Paul Revere of seeking to colonize the Penobscot people, and confusing the name of Alamo Elementary School with the Texas battle rather than the Spanish word for “poplar tree.”

Since passing its original plan, the school board was ridiculed for shoddy research and often wildly inaccurate claims linking school names to racism, sexism or other injustices.

Rather than addressing the criticism, Tuesday’s resolution said it “wishes to avoid the distraction and wasteful expenditure of public funds in frivolous litigation.”

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